Defiant Iran declares it will not halt ballistic missile development

Rejecting complaint from France, Britain and Germany, the Islamic Republic says it is ‘determined to resolutely continue its activities’

In this photo from February 7, 2019, by Sepahnews, the website of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, a Dezful surface-to-surface ballistic missile is displayed in an undisclosed location in Iran. (Sepahnews via AP)
In this photo from February 7, 2019, by Sepahnews, the website of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, a Dezful surface-to-surface ballistic missile is displayed in an undisclosed location in Iran. (Sepahnews via AP)

Iran is not going to halt or curb activity on its ballistic missile program, the Islamic Republic said in a letter to the United Nations on Wednesday.

Tehran envoy Majid Takhte Ravanchi wrote that a November 21 complaint about the missile program to the UN Security Council from France, Britain and Germany is unfounded and based on faulty materials.

“Iran is determined to resolutely continue its activities related to ballistic missiles and space launch vehicles,” Ravanchi wrote in the letter, a copy of which was tweeted by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif.

In a letter circulated Wednesday, ambassadors from the three European nations urged UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to inform the council in his next report that Iran’s ballistic missile activity is “inconsistent” with the call in a council resolution endorsing the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.

Separately, The New York Times reported on Wednesday that Iran is taking advantage of unrest in neighboring Iraq to stockpile short-range ballistic missiles there.

Quoting American intelligence and military officials, the report said that the missile buildup was part of an Iranian effort to project power in the Middle East as the United States increases its military forces in the region following a series of attacks blamed on Iran.

The intelligence officials said the missiles threaten US allies such as Israel and Saudi Arabia, as well as American troops stationed in the area.

The officials would not comment on the type of missiles Iran is secreting into Iraq, but the report noted a short-range missile with a range of 600 miles (965 kilometers) could strike Jerusalem from Baghdad.

Reuters first reported last year that Iran was placing ballistic missiles with its Shiite proxies in Iraq and also working to make sure its allied militias in the country are capable of building more rockets ingenuously.

The deployment was meant to improve Iran’s ability to retaliate against any Western or Arab attacks on its territory, as well as to expand its options for attacking opponents in the region, Reuters said at the time.

A series of airstrikes in Iraq on Iranian-linked bases and weapons earlier this year was blamed on Israel by Iraqi leaders. Israel has not neither confirmed nor denied its involvement in the attacks, while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has hinted at the possibility that it has struck in Iraq.

Illustrative: Popular Mobilization Forces members stand by a burning truck after a drone attack blamed on Israel near Qaim border crossing, in Anbar province, Iraq, August 25, 2019. (AP Photo)

Israel views Iran as its greatest threat, and has acknowledged carrying out scores of airstrikes in Syria in recent years aimed primarily at preventing the transfers of sophisticated weapons, including guided missiles, to the Iran-backed, Lebanese Hezbollah terror group.

Israel has repeatedly said that it will not accept Iranian military entrenchment in Syria and that it will retaliate for any attack on the Jewish state.

Tensions have risen in the Persian Gulf since May last year when US President Donald Trump unilaterally abandoned the nuclear deal between major powers and Iran and began reimposing crippling sanctions in a campaign of “maximum pressure.”

They flared again this May when Iran began reducing its own commitments under the deal and the US deployed military assets to the region.

Since then, ships have also been attacked, drones downed, and oil tankers seized. In September, Saudi oil facilities were attacked in a cruise missile and drone strike blamed on Iran.

Israeli and US officials have warned Iran may be planning more attacks.

Agencies contribute to this report.

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